Inside the literary mind of Stephen Douglass
February 2, 2017
Having spent my entire working life in the oil business, the stories were choices, not decisions.
Born and raised in Canada, Stephen spent the first half of his career working for the two largest oil companies in the world: Exxon and royal Dutch Shell. He spent the second half working for one of the smallest oil companies in the world; his own. Now retired, he spends his summers with his wife, Ann, at their Canadian home near Niagara Falls.
He winters at their Florida home in Port St. Lucie. When he is not writing, he is reading, traveling, or playing bad golf. He plans to write until the day he dies, probably longer.
Stephen has said, “If readers have half as much fun reading The King Trilogy as I did writing it, they will be enriched.”
Today I am interviewing Stephen Douglas. One reviewer said of The Bridge to Caracas: His story deals with money laundering, fraud, manipulation, with a very driving force of true love. There’s something here for everyone. And so there is.
Question: Tell me about your newest book and what was the inspiration behind your writing it?
Stephen: My inspiration was The Millenium Trilogy, written by Stieg Larsson. I was amazed that an author would finish an entire trilogy before publishing any of the volumes. In fact, I was so amazed that I did it myself.
I self-published The King Trilogy, three eBooks, simultaneously on Amazon KDP. If I never sell a single copy, the experience has been more than worth the effort. Now all I have to do is to remind myself, and my ego, that writing for me was never meant to be anything more than a hobby.
Both plot and subplots of all three volumes were unplanned. During the writing phase they changed as quickly and capriciously as the weather. The common thread throughout the trilogy is an enormous and stolen fortune, the fruit of Jim Servito’s crimes
My objective from beginning to end was to confront the principal characters with stressful situations, then to describe their thoughts and reactions. I discovered the best way to do this is to imagine myself in the same situation and ask myself how I would respond. Having been in stressful situations throughout my working life, this process made writing fun for me, a long way from the “root canal” of writing my first essay in university.
Question: Why and when did you decide to become a writer?
Stephen: I escaped from the daily races and disappeared into obscurity at the tender age of forty-nine. Obscurity for my wife, Ann and me was a lovely cottage on the shore of Lake Rosseau, Ontario, Canada, with a view of islands, rocks and beautiful sunsets. The area, known as Muskoka, is a destination for business owners, financial engineers, movie stars, and overpaid hockey players, all anxious to get away from the stress of it all.
Shortly after our arrival in Muskoka, I accepted a dinner invitation from our newest closest neighbor, the owner of another lovely cottage on the shore of an adjacent bay. While sipping brandies with our host and hostess at the conclusion of a sumptuous meal, small talk dominated until our host smiled at me and said, “It’s rather unusual for someone so young to retire and build a cottage on Lake Rosseau. What did you do for a living, Steve?”
I risked boring him with the story of my crazy life in the Canadian oil business. The brandy encouraged me to give him the longer version.
His stunned expression spoke volumes. “Incredible!” he exclaimed. “That’s an amazing story! Have you ever considered writing a book about it?”
I shook my head and replied, “I’ve never written anything longer than an essay in university.”
“That shouldn’t deter you,” he insisted. “Your story is a piece of international crime lore. It screams to be told.”
The thought of writing an entire novel brought back vivid memories of writing that essay. As I wrote above, it was akin to root canal. I thanked him and suggested politely, “Let’s change the subject and have another drink.” We did both.
As years went by, my neighbor’s suggestion not only stayed with me, it pestered me and gnawed at my ego. “Why not tell the story?” I asked myself. “It’s arguably one of the most unique crime sagas ever.” I picked up a ballpoint pen and a letter sized pad, then scribbled until finally I had written The Bridge To Caracas, entirely in long hand. I subsequently typed it, using four amateur fingers on a now ancient Apple 2e.
Question: What book has been the greatest influence on you and your writing and why?
Stephen: The Firm, by John Grisham had an enormous influence on me and my writing, because, after an extraordinary number of publisher rejections, that book succeeded in launching one of the most successful writing careers in history. It is a testament to the credo: “Never give up.”
Question: Where do you find ideas for your books?
Stephen: Having spent my entire working life in the oil business, the stories were choices, not decisions.
Question: Where do you find ideas for your characters?
Stephen: Given my background, ideas for characters were too numerous. The oil industry, during my career, was populated with every character type one could possibly imagine. I have three favorite characters in The King Trilogy: two antagonists, (both male), and one protagonist, (female).
The first, Jim Servito, the unscrupulous criminal in The Bridge To Caracas.
The second, Louis Visconti, the larcenous money manager in The Tainted Trust.
The third, Kerri King, the heroic survivor in Kerri’s War.
If, by some stroke of insanity, someone were to make a movie of The King Trilogy, the following would be my casting choices:
Jim Servito, (The Bridge To Caracas): Al Pacino.
Louis Visconti, (The Tainted Trust): Leonardo DiCaprio
Kerri King, (Kerri’s War): Jennifer Aniston
Question: How would you describe your writing style?
Stephen: My highest priority is telling a story, rather than attempting to impress readers with big words and endless descriptions.
Question: What do you consider the most difficult part of writing a book?
Stephen: Getting started. I don’t even know what’s in second place.
Question: What are your current projects?
Stephen: So many readers liked the King family that I have decided to extend The King Trilogy to a series, perhaps one without an end. After all, I plan to write until my dying day, perhaps longer.